Been watching Outlander? Fan of Braveheart? Want to see the iconic bridge that the Hogwarts Express crosses? If so, I think you’re going to love this series of posts! Since visiting briefly ten years ago, Scotland has had a special place in my heart and i’ve been wheeling and dealing to get myself back there. There’s something about the frosty climate that breeds a stoic and welcoming people who have a rich and varied cultural history. There’s a bit more than bagpipes and blood sausage to this country. In this next series of posts, i’m going to share the details of the holiday I just spent in Scotland, specifically something called the NC500 and I hope you enjoy it!
If you’re from Australia, you will know that the road trip is at the very least, a rite of passage and at the most, a national sport. With the vast distances and incredible landscape between cities, hopping in the car and getting on the road is one of the best ways to see the country. So when we were looking into exploring the Scottish Highlands, we immediately began looking into driving routes.
The most publicised driving route around the highlands is called the North Coast 500 (NC500) which most people follow in a clockwise direction, beginning in Inverness. We decided to go anti-clockwise because we’re such rebels *cough*not*cough*. No, we actually wanted to end up on the Isle of Arran so it made more sense for us to go this way. For those of you playing along at home, you can see an interactive map here which will help you visualise this whole thing.
Here are the things you need to know before setting off:
1. The quality of the roads on the NC500 is excellent, but the further north you get, the more single lane roads you will be on. Don’t worry though, the locals know what they’re doing and there are many, many passing places that you can pull into so that oncoming traffic (or those behind you) can pass. You can get away with renting a medium sized car. We got a Ford Kuga which was perfect and had no trouble with some of the steeper roads.
2. You should see some highland coos, one of the greatest creatures ever created.
3. You will see lots of sheep, sometimes on the road, sometimes not, sometimes staring off into the distance like a heroic explorer. I’m not sure if this is your thing, but this was one of my favourite things about driving through Scotland!
4. Unless you’re going to pitch a tent or you’re driving a caravan (and sometimes even then) book your accommodation before you go, otherwise you might end up having to stay in a bothy like the one above! We mostly stayed in airbnbs which were a lot of fun. There are also some excellent hotels that you can stay at if your budget is a bit more generous.
5. Take your time and keep your camera ready – can you spot the photographer here? It is possible to do the route in a week or so, but why rush it? I could have spent at least an extra day in every place we stayed. Also, you will need time for all the photos you will need to take. I say ‘need’ because the landscape is so unbelievably beautiful you will want to catch every second of it so that you can relive it when you’re stuck at work and everything sucks. P.s. super thanks to my husband who took a lot of the photos i’m going to share with you in this series.
Now that i’ve whetted you’re appetite, are you reading to come along on the NC500? What iconic road trips have you taken or are you planning on taking? Let me know in the comments!